Monday, July 30, 2012

These People Have My Number

Trust me, I had this awesome post, half done, and I just pressed some whack combo of buttons and the whole thing is gone.

Now you're stuck with this one.

The upshot is that blogs are dangerous because they lead you down the path of retail exploration, even when you're not expecting it. It's doubly dangerous when the source is (a comment on) your own blog?! Frances, I blame you! :-)

My latest vice: Brooklyn Tweed.

What else do I need? It's got:
  • Beautiful people wearing
  • Beautiful garments in 
  • Beautiful photos displayed with
  • Excellent graphics that underscore a
  • Terrific user interface which is home to
  • An online store with affordable shipping rates that also houses
  • A blog (a real one) that puts you in a really tweedy mood
Not to mention, the auteur is a guy (one of the 5 male knitters I've ever heard of), mastermind of a lifestyle, design collective and producer of sustainable materials. I found myself come up against some scary latent sexism when I discovered this. I was all: How is it that a man can turn a largely frumpy art into "concept"? Why didn't a woman do this? Um, hello, we run knitting. Whereupon I spoke with some friends at work and they suggested I was threatened, not unlike a corporate man in 1950. That's food for thought.

Point is, you shouldn't knock a great thing - a place where you can read about knitting, find numerous patterns (of a certain niche, some of which may very much appeal to you), excellent pattern instruction, and hand-crafted yarn.

Here's the pattern I recently bought because this post caught my eye:

Take heed marketers. This isn't even vaguely my style and I just couldn't resist. A two-way sweater. In "natural colours". It's so Iceland meets New Hampshire! Maybe, if I make this sweater my hair will get kind of red and curly and I'll get taller and younger!

I came SO close to spending 100 bucks plus on yarn (it looks so GOOD), when sense got the better of me. I ordered the swatch card instead (7 bucks, no shipping fee) and then I read some Ravelry reviews.

The more you read, the worse it gets. Apparently, the yarn frays, splits, breaks and contains a surplus "natural fibre" bits i.e. woody crap. You know, based on how gorgeous it looks in the Look Book, I'd try it nonetheless, if not for the numerous comments that indicate it isn't soft. I have a thing about soft. I hate "rustic yarn".

The point is, I had an option to order the swatch card because this company offers it in a lovely format at a reasonable price, sans shipping. I will feel (a swatchy version of) the product with my own hands and then decide if it is meant to be, for me, or if I should simply enjoy the many other elements of Brooklyn Tweed: patterns, blog and gorgeous photos. Either way, they win. And so do I.

Question: Have you tried this yarn? Does it live down to its Ravelry rep? Have you tried the patterns? What's your experience of Brooklyn Tweed? Do tell.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's All Structural

Ah, the joys of renovation. The project has hit a couple of snags in the last 24 hours. I'm not going to talk about them because a) they stress me out all to shit and b) it's really important not to over react. Every human being who's ever undertaken a structural reno says (s)he hits some pretty piquant moments. Thing is, those moments often disappear as quickly as they arrive. So I've decided to just truck along, structural reno veteran-in-the-making. Is there a t-shirt for that?

As luck would have it, I arrived home to a little present from Figleaves on the porch. Note: It was a present from me, to me, via Figleaves. They didn't comp me anything.

You know how I love to try out new brands and how this blog makes me feel like I'm not so much supporting a habit as performing a public service? Well, I've noted the house brand "Midnight Grace" for quite a while, and I've often wondered how the product would wear.

For starters, Midnight Grace is a stupid name. What is it with brands and their stupid names these days??

Specifically, I went on the site to find something inexpensive. Often, people ask me for lingerie advice and I direct them to brands I love, but which might not be in the optimal price range. This time, I went looking for cheap (price-wise only, natch), and this is what I found:

Midnight Grace Posy Non-padded Plunge Bra and Shorts
Who doesn't like a nice floral print?

I chose it because a) it seemed easy to wear under things b) was cute c) seemed supportive and d) it cost (on sale, and that sale continues) £8.40 for the bra and £4.80 for the undies. Including shipping, this whole thing cost me under 40 bucks CDN. You can't find a set at Target for that price.

So, what do I think?

For starters, I've been buying up 1 cup size lately. I'm experimenting in light of changing breast volume and shape, but I've found that, when one buys a new brand in a new size, everything's a surprise.

I would say, just from my minimal experience of this one style of bra, that it fits small in both cup and band. I'm glad I went up a size, though it's a bit roomy in the upper cups for me. The gore sits perfectly flush with my breastbone and the wires are the right size to encase the fullness and deepness of my breasts. I suggest this style is good for someone with upper bust volume and breasts that aren't too closely set. It does seem to separate the breasts quite a bit, which gives a flatter profile (not my fave). This bra does not promote cleavage (not something I particularly care about attaining in every bra).

The fabric is not luxe, nor is it yucky. On this front, I think you get what you pay for. If I'd bought this at full price, I'd be satisfied by the fabric quality, but not impressed.

Where this falls down, no pun intended, is on supportiveness. Don't get me wrong, it's not a disaster. I can totally wear this thing, though I wonder how often I will, in light of the exquisite and sizable cache I already own. I just think it would be better on a younger, not-so-dense bust. In this respect it has a Panache Cleo quality - really pretty to look at, but not so well engineered, at least not for heavy breasts. I sense the brand is catering to a youth market in that the cups are very sheer (and as such, not so strong, though my Miss Mandalay bra is just a sheer and much more supportive. Note, the Mandalay bra has really grown on me. What I've learned, in my travels, is that younger, proportionately full-busted purchasers are very dismayed when they buy bras online, only to find that those bras - in their size - are made differently than the photos which initially enticed the purchase i.e. with wider straps or underlayers of fabric etc., to improve structural support.)

The undies fit nicely. They're true to size, IMO. Note that I do not have a particularly large derriere or hips. The waistband sits just below the navel for a look that flatters a stomach that's not quite flat. For what it's worth, I don't think the photo above does them justice. I don't think they flatter the proportionately thick upper legs of the model shown and I think, for the pic, they should have sized up.

Would I buy this brand again? No - I can afford better and I value quality and support. In truth, as I've said many times, I'd go without many things for luxe lingerie. It more than pays for itself. For optimal design / value / cost ratio, I maintain that that you cannot do better than Freya (if you have a proportionately large chest and narrow frame).

Would I recommend this brand for those who don't want to or can't spend a lot, but who need a "larger" cup size and cute design? Yes, if the woman were slim(ish), young(ish) and not in need of too much support.

If nothing else, it's taken my mind off third floor renos. Has anyone tried this brand? Thoughts or feelings?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shout Out to the (Knitting) Experts: Keeping Edges Straight

OK, I think I've encountered one of those vintage knitting lingo moments that has me reasonably concerned that a) I don't know what the hell it means and so b) I just ignored the instruction and now I'm going to have to rip my sweater back to the start.

Do you know this term: keeping the edges straight? It's used in a variety of contexts in my current project: Keep the side edge straight, keep the centre back edge straight etc.

Seems self-explanatory enough. Stay straight.

But, ahem, after observing it 5 times, it occurred to me that I should look up the phrase to see if there's more to it. Seems there is.

(Katy, I didn't understand that what you meant in your comment, about slipping the first stitch, is probably what the pattern advises (without so much as coming out and saying it). Have I mentioned that the vintage people would have done better to actually explain their concepts??)

Here's the question: Should I start over, inserting an extra "edging" stitch at the beginning and end of each row?

My larger dilemma is that I spend practically every row of this project either increasing or decreasing at either or both sides. I'm instructed to start knitting the left side of the sweater by casting 2 stitches on the needle. By the time I finish, I end up with almost 200 stitches.

So, presuming I need to add extra edge stitches for slipping, how does it work with a pattern with so much sharp shaping? I'm told to begin the pattern by casting on 2 stitches, then knitting, then casting on 2 more stitches, then purling (and so on and so on). Instead of following the explicit pattern instructions to cast on 2 stitches to begin, should I just start the whole shebang with 4 cast on stitches? Do I keep those extra 2 "edging" stitches (one beginning, one end) as the ones to be slipped? How will I slip? Only on knit rows? On every row?

More to the point, is this merely a cosmetic thing, or is keeping my edges straight a structural endeavour?

Thanks so much, knitting experts, for any feedback you can provide.

Sincerely, That Novice Who Should Think About These Things Before Spending 10 Hours Knitting

On A Clear Day...

Apparently, it's a long road to a new roof...

Needless to say, there's still a far way to go, but we hope to have a waterproof roof and all the windows installed sometime soon (You can't see the ones that will go in at the front of the house - the clerestories and the original front window that's to be replaced.) There's going to be an awesome cross breeze happening in this room. Assisted by a very cool (read: happening) fan.

The windows are extremely fancy. You can never lock yourself out on the balcony via the window /door on the right (it's open in this photo). That wooden thing on the other side of the windows is a balcony space. The view is pretty nice, all things considered - very wide and much less ugly than I thought it would be.
This pic doesn't really give a sense of the scope in the new room. It really is spacious but not in a "monster-reno" way. To be clear, it's no larger than it ever was, it's just got higher ceilings (12 feet at the ridge beam to the back of the room) and a more usable floor plan.

We're more or less on schedule (pending inspections) and the plan indicates completion at the beginning of September. I wonder how feasible that is. The 125 yr old plaster walls in the second floor hallway have taken a beating - not from travel (we set up a scaffold to obviate the need for trades to walk through the house with construction materials) but due to the impact of the third floor build. They'll need to be restored - Lord, we restore them every time I turn around, it seems. And there will be a need for certain other fixes. (It's part of the original work plan as we assumed all that smacking would filter down.) I think they also intend to repaint the master bedroom, a little extra, which hasn't been done since we moved in 12 years ago. That would be awesome.

Thoughts so far?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Lady's Prerogative

Believe it or not, I could not find one sweater project on Ravelry, having a 7 or 8 and 11 gauge, for fingering weight yarn, that appealed to me in the slightest. I'm fussy about knitting projects. It's difficult to keep them from looking "crafty" and my love of making things is only equal to my distaste when things look like I made them.

Think about it. How often, in this generation, do you see a hand-knit sweater that doesn't seem vaguely bulky (even if it's knit in thin yarn), observably novel and, dare I say it, boxy? For a culture of lovers of the form-fit, somehow it's challenging to make a sweater that hugs the body in a modern (or even classic) way. I like to think I have a good eye for what will work on me to look a) flattering and b) timeless.

So far, the McCardell Convertible sweater is still my best bet.

(To switch gears, very slightly, are you aware of this book? Written by Claire McCardell, and published in 1955, it was hugely successful, though now it is out of print. No mind, an Amazon vendor will sell it to you for $320.00, before shipping, and I'm sure you can find it occasionally on Ebay or at a garage sale. Note: The copy I found on Ebay still cost over 100 bucks.

I would LOVE to own a copy. Even just to borrow one. Hopefully they'll bring it back and then we can all enjoy it.)

Back to the sweater - I've continued on and now I have a whole new set of concerns. For starters, there's no technical drawing so I have no idea of what I'm knitting at the moment. I mean, I know it's the "Left Half of Sweater", but despite my math, it looks like it's meant for a 'tween.

What I've learned about knitting is that I frequently have no idea of what I'm looking at until I'm 2/3 of the way through. I'm inclined to continue because, if it's going to be way off in terms of sizing, I'll confirm it at some point, and then decide whether to rip it back - or to give it to M.

Keep in mind that I have pages of musings to show that a) the size 32" chest (objectively very small, I realize), should knit at 36", given that my gauge is 1 stitch off per inch. As I've never knit a sweater - till the recent City Cardigan, Take 2, that didn't seem too big (if only slightly) I now aim for 3" of negative ease with every project. As my bust measurement is 37 - 37.5", 3" of negative ease means I want to knit something that comes to 34.5" at the full bust. By my calculations, this thing should currently be bigger than I want it to be. Sure, my plan may fail, but these things can fail for so many reasons. From past experience, it's a risk I'm willing to run. And you know how I end up making everything twice, to perfect the fit on the second try. If only there were a schematic, to advise me about proposed dimensions at key places, I'd be on much more solid ground. Freakin' vintage designers?!?!?

Of course, the fact that this design has a surplice neckline, could work entirely against me. I sure as hell don't want gaping or excessive space between the V wrap.

I guess I'm in an interesting place. I truly don't know how this is going to shape up (literally), but no one else in the world, as far as I can tell, has written about making this sweater so I'm totally in uncharted territory.

Any advice? Commiseration?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

On Casting On Stitches Mid-Project and Why I May Be About to Give "The Convertible" a Miss...

You'll recall I'm making this. More to the point, I've knit the same 30 rows 4 times in an effort to resolve a fairly omnipresent challenge: the loopy outer-edge-ugliness that is inclined to come of casting at stitches every row.

Briefly, the sweater is knit entirely in stockinette, on 2.75mm needles with fingering yarn. The pieces are knit bottom up to form a diagonal, so one casts on stitches many stitches to achieve that shape. This thing starts with a cast on of a mere 2 stitches, to give you a sense of how many stitches will be cast on as one knits upwards. Why I can't simply increase stitches every row (by knitting through the front and back loop - or some other method on the first and last stitches) is beyond me. That's what's produced the nicest finish, so far, but I sense the instructions would have told me to do that if it weren't to have some deleterious effect later in the project. Note to beginners: Casting on is different than increasing stitches.

What I've Tried:

First I backwards looped those mid-project cast ons (beginning and/or end of each row). Knitters will know that the looseness of backwards looping caused gaping holes at the edges.

Then I learned how to cable cast on, but found that it wasn't producing a very nice edge outer edge, though it worked fine on the centre back increases. There appeared to be too many purl bumps on the right side of the stockinette fabric.

Finally, I read a great post on TECHKnitting that talks about how to remove the large loops that come of backwards cast on. It involves backwards looping 2/3 of the stitches required and then using the extra yarn to create the final third of stitches when you knit or purl back on the other side of the fabric. Strangely, I've done this in the past without realizing it was a technique - though I really liked the final result.

My main problem is that I am only casting on 2 stitches at the end of every row. If it were 3, I'd have enough loop to make that third stitch fairly smoothly. As it is, I've got only the exact amount of yarn to produce the extra stitch and I'm having to create and then "knit" that stitch on a purl row.

Y'all know how I love to say I'm dexterous. Well, it's trying. At this rate, it should take me 300 years to knit this sweater.  Never mind that, here's the result and I don't particularly like it:

I really do hate stockinette edges.

Of course, the edges will be folded under and hemmed. But they're still going to look shitty, as far as I can tell.

So, thoughts or feelings? Should I just find another pattern on which to use this terrific yarn? I figure Ravelry will yield some gems if I search with terms for fingering yarn, 2.75 mm needles and a gauge of 7 or 8 and 11. Whatcha think?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Really Awesome (Really Easy) Dessert

I just made a modified version of this coconut chocolate pudding, and it was all that. I mean, I'd show you a photo but Scott and I inhaled it before we had a chance to, um, document it.

I had about 6 oz of full-fat, unsweetened coconut milk, something I never keep in the house, but which I bought to try making whipped coconut milk (i.e. whipped cream without dairy). Didn't work so well for that - my can of coconut milk was quite emulsified and I couldn't subtract enough of the water liquid to make the solids entirely whip-able.

Interesting fact about me: I loathe coconut in savoury food. That slick greasiness creeps me out. And I feel its taste competes with everything else. I LOVE it, however, in dessert. Side note: while in the NC mountains, I had one of the best coconut cream pies I've ever tasted - and trust me I try every one I've come into contact with. If you find yourself in the area, definitely check out Eat Crow.

At any rate, I just adjusted the ratios of ingredients to suit the amount of coconut milk I had on hand, using slightly less than half (or half, in the case of the corn starch) of those other goodies.

Production took me 10 minutes, from start to finish, and 90 minutes cooling in the fridge, though I could happily have eaten it hot.

The texture of this pudding is perfect. Totally smooth and rich. It doesn't incline itself to lumps because there are no eggs - just corn starch - to thicken it. The coconut milk is so rich it obviates the need for eggs for either taste or mouth feel.

It's so elegant that, in a ramekin, with artfully placed berries and a drizzle of salted caramel (or whipped cream), it would make a lovely dinner party end-of-meal.

Note: I didn't add extra coconut (I didn't have any on hand, and besides Scott kind of hates it) and I could not taste any coconut flavour. It was entirely dark-chocolatey. So, unless you have an allergy to the stuff, you can happily make use of its slickening properties in this recipe, without worrying about feeling overwhelmed.

Have you ever made this or something similar? What do you think?

Friday, July 20, 2012

City Cardigan, Take 2

There are mornings when you can't take a good photo (regrettably):

Try to look past my deer-caught-in-the-headlights meets really-tired-lady thing. The sweater I'm wearing is version 2 of the City Cardigan - knit while I was on vacation.

Those buttons are wooden. In this version I a) removed 3 inches from the width of the shoulders (but expanded to original dimensions under the arm for bust room. I also lengthened the ribbing by a inch (which is why I have sewn 4 buttons this time, rather than 3).

What do you think of the colour? Of the cut? Would you make this cardigan? I think I like it (I'm very pleased with the workmanship) but I'm on the fence.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Baby Smell...

I finally realized why knitters love to make things for babies:
  • Baby patterns are SO cute!
  • Babies don't need specially fitted things.
  • You can work from your stash so it's cost-effective.
  • It takes a fraction of the time to knit a baby item than it does to knit a grown up item.
  • New mothers love hand-made garments.
It really is satisfying to say hello to a new person with a hand-knitted gift.

To wit:

These are the Basic Baby Hat by Heather Tucker and Chaussons Mignons from Pruline en Vadrouille. See my Ravelry page for more deets.
And the best part of spending next to nothing on a gift (well, except one's time, love and effort), is that you can blow the budget on the wrapping!
The wife of a work friend recently had a baby boy and I couldn't resist making something a) practical b) soft and c) tiny adorable. I'm going to give this to my friend tomorrow when he returns to the office...

So what do you think? I know these are entirely simple items but babies have entirely simple needs. Soft and warm is where it's at. And you've got to love a present that takes under 5 hours to make, including shopping for the wrapping...

Do you knit for new babies?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Latest Crafting...

My next goal is to finish a second muslin of my fitted bodice (S, my fitting friend, is very polite but I sense she wants to smack me for my delinquency). Hopefully tomorrow - the last day of my vacation - will permit me to do this successfully.

Today, I finished the button bands on my City Cardigan, Take 2, and photos will be coming soon. I did have a very stressful moment, wherein I had to rip out 2 of 4 buttonholes after the machine seized up. That cost me an hour, but I'm grateful to say the fix is doable, even on a hand-knitted garment lined with a petersham ribbon. Given my hysteria about buttonholes in general, this was a bad scene. My husband had to talk me off the ledge. And fix the machine and stand next to me while I resewed. Note to readers: NEVER cut your buttonholes until you've sewn everything in. Then, if something, fucks up, you can rip out the buttonhole framing with (hopefully) little ill-effect.

I do hope to sew something quick in the next couple of weeks, and I've just started knitting this:

It's the Claire McCardell "Convertible" wrap sweater from the 50s. I've provided some info on Ravelry... You've got to love the deep coral colour I'm using, called "Chagrin". It's by a Lorna's Hand-Dyed Yarns. (Yet again, the website shows a photo of completely inaccurate shade, but what can you do?)

While the pattern looks fairly simple - ahem, let's not get ahead of ourselves - it's a flat knit that must be finished with a fair amount of seaming. (It's faced and hemmed up the yin yang.) Those mid-century knitters were not top-downers. It's also to be knit with a sock-weight wool on a 2.75 mm needle. That's yarn about a zillion times thinner than the worsted weight I just used on my City sweaters and a needle that's practically thin enough to sew with! The freakin' gauge swatch is probably going to take me an hour.

Finally, S has been working on a linen shirt for quite a while. Actually, she's been wearing it for quite a while though, technically, it's not quite done. One of the finishings she's considered is a rolled-hem. A while ago, I watched a video of a skilled tailor hand rolling and sewing the hem of a silk scarf. Somehow, and I guess this is the power of observing rather than owning a project, I decided it would be fun to practice the technique on S's blouse. And she didn't stop me?!

I don't know if, on closer review, tomorrow she'll pull the stitches out, but tonight she seemed fairly pleased with the result. I'm amazed by what an enjoyable bit of hand-stitching it is. Don't fear the hand-rolled hem. It's very intuitive. Just lick your fingers to gain the required friction to slimly roll the raw edge of the fabric. I can imagine it will be delightful doing this with silk.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Onward and Upward

I prefer to see this, not as a roofless third floor, but as a well-ventilated room with a vista:

Amazingly, the part that still covered by a roof (on the left side) is not our space. It's our neighbours' (unfinished) attic.
On the plus side, we're in the middle of a mini-drought here... Every forecast for rain has evaporated into 32 degree sauna-days. Scott has been soaker-hosing the gardens nightly.

A propos of gardens, the workers have been very respectful of my garden, not partially because, before this reno got started,  I totally acted like a crazy woman (bunny-boiling, not hysterical) and advised them that I will actually lose my mind if harm befalls my plants.
Here's a shot of the recently-removed chimney foundation at the floor:

The carpenter was shocked and horrified to discover that the chimney bricks directly abut the wood frame of the house. He can't believe this place didn't burn down during the half a century when the chimney would have been the primary source of heating for the house.

Just in case you thought modern construction cornered the market on scary.

In truth, this project is totally fascinating. I would happily watch this reno on television with a bowl of popcorn, yelling at the screen about how insane those homeowners were to have ever undertaken something so huge.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Emerald City

I'm writing this from the airport, waiting for my flight. (Sidebar: Don't you find it amazing when people do things like write posts from the airport? Really, 90 per cent of the reason I'm doing this so that I say I've joined the club. Of course, the hard core peeps write from airports on their smart phones. I've tried writing posts on my smart phone, just in TO, and it's an experience that will not be repeated...)

However, since I am writing, I suppose I should tell you some things.

For starters, I successfully brought knitting needles on the plane (carry on luggage) both from TO - where needles are not a restricted item (I looked it up) and from Charlotte, where all carry on is subject to the whim of the security personnel. I did bring a SASE and postage in the event that I would have to mail them to myself. My needles are Addis and those fuckers cost! I'm very pleased to have had this experience, not that I can rely on it. I polled numerous knitters about taking their needles on the plane and it's been a mixed bag. Apparently, Europe and Canada are generally less fussed about it than the US.

However, to obviate a potentially challenging, live-stich transfer to stitch holders (basically little knitting needles with ends?! Note, I did have yarn cut, just in case...), I actually stuck to my timelines and finished the sweater. Last night at 10:30 pm.

I have to say that I am VERY pleased with the end result. I figured out all kinds of math / sizing adjustments and those adjustments worked to produce a sweater, the fit of which is just how I envisioned it. I still need to sew on the ribbon stabilizer, buttons and buttonholes by machine. But the knitting is complete.

Interestingly, as I tried to explain the irrational nature of short rows to my father, it appears he had no difficulty understanding how they work to shape a garment. Hmmm. Is this because I explained the concept insanely well?? Or does it really just hurt my brain?

I will show a photo of the finished sweater as soon as I've done the button work. I'll have to model it because this narrowed version will not fit the dress form, I suspect.

I was on the fence about the colour at first. I chose it by necessity - it was the best of the Super Wash Cascade 220 colours available to me, and you'll recall my goal was to avoid having to gauge swatch again. In order to see if my fitting alterations would work, I couldn't add another variable (i.e. new yarn or needle size producing different gauge). It would have defeated the experiment.

In the course of knitting, I came to appreciate the colour increasingly. It's Emerald City (890), in case you're interested. I'd post a photo, but no photo shows the colour even vaguely accurately. They online pics all make it seem like the very same blue I have used on 6 other knitted items and I am not going to deliberately put that visual into your heads. You must trust me when I tell you that the colour is a blue green. Even a teal. Mind you, since I hate that colour, I don't particularly want to put that into your minds either. Really, just wait and see. It's a colour that looks good with my hair and pallor - and, in its intensity, makes my eyes look like I'm wearing weird-coloured contacts.

I suspect we're going to board shortly, so I have to run... More from TO. Maybe even a picture of a new roof? (Don't hold your breath.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In Case You're Wondering...

My house is apparently roof-free. Now let's see if they can reframe and insert some windows by Thursday aft.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Land of the Bling

The thing about America is that it's the mecca of consumerism. Every single time I come here, I promise myself that I'm going to stay out of the shops. But, people, they're everywhere. Everything you've seen in any magazine; all the newest flashy stuff on e-commerce sites and blogs; the loveliest shoes, the sweetest dresses... They're all over. Well, actually, they're all at the mall that you drive to. And since it's 8000 degrees in the South, you get a mani-pedi while you're at it. And then you go to the Dean and Deluca for a snack, and before you know it it's 3 pm at which point you're a sweaty mess.

But you sure do get good loot, at lower prices than you'll find anywhere in Canada or Europe. If you want a lesson in the devaluation of goods, you really have to shop here. I know the US economy is in the tank, but the stuff here is so cheap, and so desirable, it scarcely seems to matter.

Here's what I've acquired, absolutely without trying:
  • Merrell Barefoot shoes. I'm not going to try and tell you that they're attractive, but they are AWESOME for your feet, and I can see myself wearing them on weekend days for errands.
  • Another bottle of Jasmine White Moss, by Estee Lauder (of all the crazy brands). I first came across this at the Holt Renfrew in Montreal and it is pure gorgeous. A little bit of chypre, some fine floral. It's entirely my kind of scent.
  • You know that gimmicky Clinque stick I got in honour of the big 4-0? Well, 2 yrs (and 5 rollers later), I'm still addicted. So I replenished the stock.
  • A persimmon-coloured rain jacket by GET. This was a gift from my mum, like the Merrells. What I would have given for this thing in Europe last summer. I'm trying to overcome my issue with precipitation, so I'm optimistic about options for wearing this. Hell, why not pair it with the Merrells to look totally "hike".
  • Books and clothes for M. (It adds up...)
  •  And finally - I can't believe I've done this twice in 2 weeks - I bought another pair of NYDJ jeans. These are lightly stonewashed. They look very Farrah Fawcett / California hottie, NOT 80s throwback. Honestly, and I can't say this has ever happened before, my body IS the sloper for these jeans. The size 4 fits perfectly in the rise, in the waist, in the ass, in the length, in the width. It's frightening and I'm vain enough to want as many pairs as I can stash in my closet.
So there you go. Of course, it would have been better to buy utterly nothing, at least from the perspective of saving cash. But it's all but impossible to resist.

Friday, July 6, 2012


Without a doubt, the mountain area where Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia converge is splendid. It's one of the most beautiful landscapes imaginable - lush (but not overgrown), rugged (but hospitable), bright (but shaded).

I realize there are innumerable gorgeous landscapes all over the world, but this is one of the most broadly accessible (in terms of appreciation, not location, necessarily). It's also a mecca for adventurers of every level of ability.
Photo courtesy of Hiking in the High Country
The terrain of the west coast of Canada - while objectively amazing - doesn't call to me, particularly. (I have a freakish hate-on for rain.) Hawaii, everyone's jewel, is a nice place, but not one I want to spend 16 hours getting to (I've done it twice.) The English countryside, a place where I spent a couple of formative years, is SO beautiful to my mind, and so melancholy.

As I think about the spaces that inhabit me, those places, memories of which routinely bubble to the surface, I am a creature of habit. The Charlevoix region (land of perfect northern agriculture)...:

Photo courtesy of
...and the lake region of central Ontario (my cottage country). Yes, there are dozens of landscapes in this area, but my preferred is the grand, somewhat foreboding Georgian Bay:

Photo courtesy of Windrush Landscape Gallery

What landscapes do it for you?

PS: Yesterday's bike ride through the Creeper Trail was AWESOME. Not physically challenging - if a bit dangerous - and insanely picturesque. 

PPS: Today's outdoor activity is hiking the Boone Fork Trail. (Pic at the top shows one of its landscapes and I understand it's sublime.) It's a 5 mile loop encompassing climbing up rocks, walking through meadows and wading through streams.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Creeper Trail

Here's where I'll be on Thursday...

Photo courtesy of Virginia Creeper Trail Guide
Who doesn't love a down-hill bike excursion with a great cafe half way through. That is SO my thing.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hey Y'All

I am in NC at the moment and will have only intermittent access to a network (I'm going to the mountains for a while). More to the point, I've chosen to view this time as a spa experience - I know, spa with my entire family except my husband is its own kind of "relaxing". My goal is to eat more healthfully - fortunately my parents cook extremely well but with a kind of balance I don't tend towards. In my mother, I also have my own acupuncturist on call.

I really need to take the edge off, get a grip on my light-sensitivity and headache. (Calm the fuck down, as I put it a few posts ago.) There's a pool outside, a comfy bed and a yoga space here...

I've brought a knitting project - the City Cardigan (my last project), Take 2. I've given the first version to my mother - who loves it and looks terrific in it. Take 2 will have shoulders that are 2 inches narrower (to fit my own shoulder width perfectly, I hope). I'm also experimenting with certain other elements of construction. I don't have access to a camera (left my phone at home) but I will show pics when I return to TO.

I imagine I'll post, but can't say how or when - the mood and circumstances will conspire, I'm sure.

Till then, xo.